Sink or Float STEM Experiment with Oil and Water

Sink or float science and STEM experiments and popular with early education and early elementary school teachers.  These experiments are easy to prepare and conduct and have a fun wow factor with students.  Back in September, I wrote a blog post about a Halloween candy-themed sink or float STEM activity you can use in your classroom.  This blog post is about another sink or float activity... but with a twist.  In this STEM activity, you will be dropping objects into a container of oil and water.  How will this change the results?  Keep reading to find out!

Sink or float science and STEM activity using small objects, oil and water. Free record sheet provided in blog post. #kellysclassroomonline

Floating or Sinking STEM Experiment

This experiment requires a handful of items... the majority of which you probably have already.

For this experiment, you will need:
  • plant-based, mineral, or baby oil 
  • water
  • large glass
  • small toy bricks
  • coins
  • other small objects
  • optional: food coloring

Sink or Float Science and STEM Activity Using Oil and Water

The first step of this experiment teaches students about density and displacement.  I added a drop of blue food coloring to the water to highlight the difference between the two layers.

Directions:
  1. Fill the glass halfway with water.
  2. Slowly pour some oil into the glass.  Do NOT let the oil and water mix!
  3. Drop the small objects into the glass one at a time.  Which ones float?  Which ones sink?  Which ones appear to be stuck between the two layers?

Sink or Float Science and STEM Activity Using Oil and Water

The second step of this experiment teaches the students about sink vs. float.  We dropped all sorts of random items into the jar... buttons, coins, cough drops, screws, and glitter.  The buttons floated on top of the oil.  The glitter floated on the water, but not the oil.  Everything else sunk to the bottom of the jar.

Recording the Results

Parents and teachers who are interested in extending their students' learning may choose to have their students record their predictions and the results of this experiment. If you're interested in doing this, feel free to download the printable below.

Sink or Float Science and STEM Activity Record Sheet by Kelly's Classroom Online

To download a FREE copy of this record sheet (two pages in all), please click on the image above. Clicking this image will take you to the Teachers-Pay-Teachers third-party website. This is a FREE download-- no purchase necessary.


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